A font for the “bride of calligraphy:” Awami Nastaliq

The Nastaliq script, considered one of the most complex and beautiful scripts on the planet, has often been called “the bride of calligraphy.”

(July 2017) SIL International is pleased to announce the release of version 1.0 of the Awami Nastaliq font. Awami is an Urdu word meaning “of the people,” “of the common population” or “public.” The Awami Nastaliq  font was designed for the wide variety of languages using the Nastaliq style of Arabic script across southwest Asia.

The Nastaliq script, considered one of the most complex and beautiful scripts on the planet, has often been called “the bride of calligraphy.” But its complexity also makes it one of the most difficult scripts to render via computer font. Nastaliq’s right-to-left direction, vertical nature, and context-specific shaping prove challenging to font-rendering engines and make it much more difficult to render than the flat (Naskh) Arabic script on which it is based. As a result, font developers have long struggled to produce a font with the correct shaping while at the same time avoiding unsightly and confusing overlap of dots and diacritics.

SIL’s Awami Nastaliq font is specifically aimed at minority language support. For example, lesser-known languages often require more vowel diacritics than majority languages such as Urdu. They may use a different set of base characters and diacritics, and the base characters often include more nuqtas (dots that distinguish similarly shaped characters) to represent sounds that are not present in Urdu or standard Arabic writing systems. The Awami Nastaliq font includes all known vowel diacritics and base characters required for languages using the Nastaliq style of Arabic script. This makes it unique among Nastaliq fonts, and the only freely-available font that provides an authentic Nastaliq style with kerned calligraphic segments.

Graphite’s smart shape-based kerning mechanism is used to both avoid collisions between calligraphic sequences and to provide the correct spacing between words.

The diagonal nature of the Nastaliq style causes some of the letter sequences to get quite tall, which can result in collisions with the previous line of text. Awami includes a feature to use shorter forms of some of the letters to help avoid this problem. Letters that can be shortened include kafs and gafs (at or near the beginning of the sequence) and final forms of noon, seen, chotiyeh, lam, meem, and qaf.

Click to view many more examples and feature of this script   

SIL has been involved in digital font development for lesser known languages since 1988. Awami Nastaliq joins 22 other font families created by SIL font developers. Five of these fonts are hosted on Google Fonts Service, whose statistics indicate they serve more than 70 million web viewers per week, enabling them to access information on the internet in a language and writing system that best meets their needs.

 

 

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